Sir Ernest Shackleton died suddenly; so suddenly that he said no word at all with regard to the future of the expedition. But I know that had he foreseen his death and been able to communicate to me his wishes, they would have been summed up in the two words, “Carry on!”
Perhaps the most difficult part of my task has been the recording of the work of the expedition. It has been to me a very sad duty, and one which I would gladly have avoided had it been possible. The demand, however, for the complete story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s last expedition has been so widespread and insistent that I could no longer withhold it.
In the subsequent pages of this book the reader will find recorded the story of the voyage of the Quest, the tight little ship that carried us through over twenty thousand miles of stormy ocean and brought us safely back.
I make no claim to literary style, but have endeavoured to set forth a plain and simple narrative.
The writings of explorers vary, but in my opinion they have all one common fault, which is, that they have attempted to combine in one volume the scientific results with the more popular story of the expedition.
This book is for the public. I have sought to eliminate the mass of scientific details with which my journal is filled, to avoid technical terms, and to retain only that which can be easily understood by all.
Of the parts of the narrative that deal with Sir Ernest Shackleton I have passed over very shortly. Pens far more able than mine, notably those of Mr. Harold Begbie and Dr. Hugh Robert Mill, have written of his life and character.
Though I was his companion on every one of his expeditions, I know little of his life at home. It is a curious thing that men thrown so closely together as those engaged in Polar work should never seek to know anything of each other’s “inside” affairs. But to the “Explorer” Shackleton I was joined by ties so strongly welded through the many years of common hardship and struggle that to write of him at all is extremely difficult. Nothing I could set down can convey what I feel, and I have a horror of false and wordy sentiment. I trust, therefore, that those readers who may think that I have dealt too lightly with the parts of the story which more intimately concern him will sympathize and respect my feelings in the matter.
I must take this opportunity of acknowledging my deep feeling of gratitude to Mr. John Quiller Rowett. What the expedition owes to him no one, not even its individual members, can ever realize. There have been many supporters of enterprises of this nature, but usually they have sought from it some commercial gain. Mr. Rowett’s support was due solely to his keen interest in scientific research, which he had previously instituted and encouraged in other fields. He bore practically the whole financial burden, and this expedition is almost unique in that it was clear of debt at the time of its return.
But, in addition to this, I owe him much for his kindly encouragement, his clear, sound judgment, and his unfailing assistance whenever I have sought it. Mrs. Rowett has given me invaluable assistance throughout the preparation of the book and has corrected the proofs. For her kindly hospitality I owe more than I can say, for to myself and others of the expedition her house has ever been open, and we have received always the most kindly welcome. In this connexion I could say a great deal, but it would be inadequate to convey what I feel.
The expedition owes also a debt of gratitude to Sir Frederick Becker, for his encouraging assistance was rendered early in its inception.
To the many public-spirited firms who came forward with offers of assistance to what was considered a national enterprise I must make my acknowledgments. It is regrettable that many of the smaller suppliers of the expedition seized the chance of a cheap advertisement at the time of our departure, but a number of the more reputable firms made no stipulation of any sort, but presented us with goods as a free gift. I can assure them that I do not lightly regard their share in helping on the work, for we were thus enabled to carry in our food stores only the best of products, Sir Ernest Shackleton rigidly eliminating all goods which he felt unable to trust.
To Mr. James A. Cook I owe much for the hard work he has done at all times and for the help which he rendered whilst the expedition was away from England.
To my many other friends who have at one time and another been of assistance I tender my grateful acknowledgments, knowing full well that they will realize how impossible it is for me to thank them all by name.
I must thank Dr. Macklin for the care he took in keeping the official diary of the expedition. This and his own private journal, from which I have freely quoted, have both been invaluable to me.
To “The Boys,” those who stood by me and gave me their loyal service throughout an arduous and trying period, I say nothing—for they know how I feel.